On November 28th we ran our first cafe from our new venue at the Juke Joint in Lancaster. We’d scoped out the premises in advance and tried to make a plan, but we were aware that things rarely go quite how you’d imagined. And this was no exception! The start was pretty chaotic as we tried to rearrange the service stations and get the soup heated and ready at the same time as locating soup bowls, chopping the bread, finding the spoons, sorting out the tables and tablecloths, putting out the cakes….. At some points, we did wonder what on earth we’d let ourselves in for, but then slowly, as all of the volunteers pulled together, it started to take shape. Before we knew it, it was midday and people were starting to come through the door. Were we ready? Just about. People found their way into roles, making coffee behind the bar, greeting people front of house, running back and forth with soup orders and bowls of soup. The place was packed and the atmosphere all day long was buzzing and happy and warm. Many compliments were sent back to the kitchen about the tasty soups, all made by our volunteers. The bread and butter pudding was reported to be a small piece of heaven. The cakes looked brilliant on the bar and there was constant service at the coffee bar. We were completely thrilled with the quality of ingredients we got from FareShare, and the reaction of people in the cafe made it clear that this was good quality food that should never have been in danger of being thrown away.
We learned a lot from this first cafe in the Juke Joint, and we expect that we’ll learn more each time. There are some pieces of equipment that we need to invest in, maybe some bits of furniture to buy, and we’ll organise ourselves a little differently next time. Each time we hope we’ll learn something that will help us to operate more easily and efficiently, so that everyone gets to have a good time.
We’re aware that there are some limitations to the venue. Accessibility is an issue and that’s very much on our radar. We’d like to upgrade the kitchen facilities, and generally have more space. On the plus side, the venue is a mainstream cafe bar, and we feel that’s very important for our core operational base. Coming to the cafe should be a positive and happy experience, with no overtones of charity or poverty. it should be a place where anyone is happy to come, whether they have money to spend or not . Working from a commercial venue helps to set the tone of this being a valued social experience. As well as this, we are gifted the use of the premises by Anthony Mark Cutter and this is no small consideration. We are running entirely on donations and so our operational budget is tiny. We like the friendly, ‘front room’ feel of the venue, with the vinyl music and higgledy piggledy furniture. All in all, we think it worked really well. Those of you who were there on the day, do you want to give us some feedback and tell us what you think? We’d love to hear from you.